Restriction of movement during environmental sanitation ‘unlawful’ – Court

Lagos (Photo credit: The Times UK)

A Federal High Court in Lagos has ruled that the restriction of movement during the monthly environmental sanitation exercise in the state is unlawful and a violation of the citizens’ right to liberty and freedom.

The case was brought against the state by a lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa.

The trial judge, Mohammed Idris, while delivering judgement on Monday, said the restriction on movement violated Sections 35 and 41 of the Constitution which guaranteed personal liberty and right to movement.

Mr. Mohammed voided the power of the state governments and its agents to arrest any citizen found moving between 7am and 10 am on the last Saturday of the month, when the exercise is observed.

In his contention before the court, Mr. Adegboruwa had argued that the restriction of movement was illegal and obnoxious. He said the exercise violated the provisions of Section 35 and 41 of the Constitution. He also argued that it violated Article XII of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The lawyer said he was compelled to institute the case after he was arrested by agents of the state on June 29, 2013 while on his way to appear on the Sunrise programme on Channels Television.

“The fact that an act has endured for years would not be a reason for the court not to strike it down,” Mr. Adegboruwa said. “I will pray my Lord to give a ruling before March 28, which is another last Saturday of the month and free myself and other Lagosians from this obnoxious practice.”

The counsel for the Lagos State Government, Jonathan Ogunsanya, had told the court to dismiss Mr Adegboruwa’s application for being an abuse of court process and for failure to disclose any material fact.

He also argued that the exercise was instituted in the interest of the public.

“It is in the interest of public health that the law has been made and it was duly made in accordance with the Constitution itself,” Mr. Ogunsanya said.

Another counter-affidavit deposed to by Bisayo Apata on behalf of the state government stated: “The issue of environmental sanitation is an age-long thing. In order to forestall a major derailment in public health, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health had made the regulation mandating all persons in Lagos State to stay at home and observe the Lagos State environmental sanitation exercise from 7am to 10am on the last Saturday of every month, as he is empowered by section 39 of the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Law, 2002.”

Mr Apata also argued that the exercise was usually not observed on important public days such as during general Election Days, Christian and Muslim festive days, Joint Matriculation Examination days etc.

“Essential service officials, such as people in hospital ambulance carrying patients requiring emergency medical attention and fire service buses, are allowed to move freely to carry out their essential services,” he said.

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